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Creative Concepts for Compact Kitchens

Here are eight big ideas to help you make the most of your small kitchen space. 

Courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens®

Starting small

Don’t let your small kitchen let you feel boxed in. There are so many exciting possibilities when it comes to finding ways to make the most of what you have. When adding on isn’t an option, get creative and have fun finding space in that compact room. From tall and narrow pull-outs to slender appliances, you have many options to consider. Here’s what one couple did with their limited kitchen space.

Renee and Lewis Baltzell's 9 x 9-foot kitchen suffered from the small-space blues, and adding on to their 1,100-square-foot bungalow in Kansas City, Missouri, wasn't an option. Kitchen designer Sue Shinneman, however, knew that small packages can yield good things.

"Bigger isn't always better," she says. "Sometimes a kitchen can get too big. Then you're always running from spot to spot to keep up."

Kitchen space is visually amplified with rearranged components, a smaller scale, more light, and custom storage.
Creative Concepts for Compact Kitchens 
A face-lift makes this kitchen
appear larger.

Thinking Big

Without adding an inch, Shinneman helped the Baltzells create a new kitchen that rivals large ones in looks and function. Here are eight "think big" tips for your size-challenged space.

1. Rearrange the components. "When I saw the layout, it seemed tight," Shinneman says. "The refrigerator was right up next to the doorway, and it stuck out." The small counter beside the refrigerator was blocked by the large appliance, and there was work space on only one side of the range. Shinneman switched the refrigerator and range locations to create as much counter space as possible and to make the room easier to navigate.

2. Select slender appliances. While appliance shopping, Lewis fell in love with a professional-grade range. Fortunately, the four-burner range is just 30 inches wide. The stainless-steel refrigerator with a bottom-mount freezer is also 30 inches wide and a slim 24 inches deep -- narrower and shallower than the old unit.

3. Set priorities. The remodeling project began when Lewis and Renee hoped to remove the microwave oven from the counter. "We first decided to get rid of the microwave and get a unit that mounted over the stove...[but] everything was crooked and it wouldn't fit right," Lewis says. Finally, they decided to gut the space. The irony of the microwave oven? "Now it's banished from the kitchen!" Renee says. "After we got the range, we asked, 'What do we even use that thing for? Why waste the space?'"

4. Amplify with reflective surfaces. "We used stainless-steel door inserts in the top cabinets that have a reflective quality," Shinneman says. "All the stainless steel helps magnify the space a bit." The stainless-steel counters have a brushed pattern that minimizes the appearance of scratches. 
Creative Concepts for Compact Kitchens 
Maple cabinetry offsets the sleek
stainless steel and complements
the wood floor.

5. Create custom storage. Shinneman designed the cabinets to reach the ceiling to maximize storage. "We put the cabinets up higher off the counter so that there is more space to work," she says. "The old top cabinets were 15 inches deep, and now the new ones are 12 inches deep. This way you can see the countertops." Pullout shelves improved access to items stored in the back of cabinets. Two narrow upper cabinets, handy for storing spices and oils, flank the range hood.

6. Invite the light. Renee and Lewis enjoy the view through a new, taller, double-hung window that abuts the countertop, letting in more light. Undercabinet halogen lights, recessed can lights, an overhead fan light, and two cobalt-blue pendants above the sink keep the room bright.
Creative Concepts for Compact Kitchens 
A pullout cabinet makes the most
of the space next to the dishwasher.

7. Play with color. Bright dashes of color add fun to tight quarters. Renee chose handmade ceramic tiles in aquamarine, peacock, and deep sea blue for the backsplash. "Everything was so slick that I needed some texture. I like the roughness of the tiles," she says.

8. Don't hesitate to decorate. The pottery spice jars, pitchers, and serving pieces that Renee makes in her basement workshop add whimsical appeal. Decorative hardware and details stylishly finish the space. Triangular pulls with square cutouts, black metal square knobs, and black-laminate-backed cutouts in the upper cabinets echo the Craftsman style of the house.
Creative Concepts for Compact Kitchens 
Backsplash tiles in three blue
hues are randomly arranged and
add tactile interest.

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